What the Bible says about
Day of God's Wrath
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God will pour out His Spirit upon the people to such an extent that seemingly everyone will be prophesying, dreaming, or seeing visions. This did not happen anciently to Judah, though it did occur in a more limited way on Pentecost after Jesus Christ died (Acts 2). This is speaking about the conversion of many people, and by their conversion through the receipt of God's Spirit, they become “His people.”
As a matter of speculation, there is a way of looking at the timing of the end-time fulfillment as a literal locust plague before the Great Tribulation. For instance, the several years it takes for grape vines and fruit and olive trees to mature and produce in abundance could indicate that the Tribulation is at least several years off when the locust invasion (mentioned in Joel 1:4; 2:25) strikes. Then come the “wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:30-31). These signs (the sixth seal; Revelation 6:12-17; Luke 21:11) are the precursors to the great day of God's wrath.
The last verse, Joel 2:32, is most interesting, as it points out that those who call upon the Lord shall be delivered and saved. Here is how James Moffatt translates it: “But every worshipper of the Eternal shall be saved, for Sion hill shall hold those who escape, as the Eternal has declared, and the fugitives whom the Eternal calls shall be inside Jerusalem.” The Amplified Bible renders it: “And whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered and saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the remnant [of survivors] shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
Who are those fugitives who escape and from what are they running? Who are those whom the Eternal calls? Revelation 12:15-17 prophesies of a remnant of commandment-keepers, presumably the church, fleeing from a flood of Satan's persecution. In fleeing, where did they go? In this speculative scenario, they go to Jerusalem before the army of locusts attacks and perhaps before the drought takes hold. They are in Jerusalem during that catastrophe where, apparently, there is food and water.
These church members could be the fugitives and those whom God calls. However, at this point their refuge is not what we call the Place of Safety, as the Tribulation has not yet begun. Those who are at the time in Judea, which includes Jerusalem, are later warned to run for the protection to be found in the mountains just as the Tribulation commences (Matthew 24:16-20).
Keeping in mind that Scripture was not written to the world at large, but to the few who have been called, it is not a great leap of faith to realize that these people delivered at Jerusalem are true Christians who flee from Satan's “flood.” The same group is warned to flee Judea to a safe place in the nearby mountains.
What Is Joel 2 Really About?
What are we to think of the disasters this nation has been experiencing of late? If they are not direct signs of the apocalypse, what are they? What God says to Israel through Amos.
Between verses 7 and 12, God mentions sending them drought, blight and mildew, locusts, plague, military defeat, and divine punishment for sin, yet after every disaster, Israel still refused to repent. So, God warns them in verse 12 that He would bring on them a major judgment—His wrath, their Day of the Lord, a day of “darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18-20).
This passage suggests that the disasters we have recently seen are warnings to the nation that God is aware of its sin and the people's drifting from Him. He is trying to get their attention so that they realize that they need to repent and return to Him. These disasters, then, are precursor judgments and threats, prods to motivate repentance and a restored relationship.
The ultimate judgment of God comes later, and Christ's return happens according to the prophecies recorded in Scripture. They are straightforward—not esoteric, not discernible only to biblical numerologists or experts of some mysterious Bible code. The prophecies will be fulfilled in real, visible, unmistakable events.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The End Is Not Yet
The theme of Obadiah 15-16 appears in Jeremiah 25:28: "And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "You shall certainly drink!"'" Edom, God proclaims, shall certainly drink of the wine of His wrath.
Upon the heels of the Great Tribulation comes the Day of the Lord, as Obadiah declares in verse 15. It is a time of reckoning, or as the prophet phrases it, "As you have done, it shall be done to you." This is a biblical law. The Romans called it lex talionis, meaning "law of retaliation" or "law of just retribution." In biblical terms, we know it as the "eye for an eye" principle (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Matthew 5:38). Jesus says that whatever we measure out to others will be measured back to us (Luke 6:38). Paul writes of it as, "Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (II Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7-8). God says that this is how He will judge Edom in the Day of His wrath: "Your reprisal shall return upon your own head."
He continues in Obadiah 16: "For as you drank on my holy mountain, so shall all the nations drink continually; yes, they shall drink, and swallow, and they shall be as though they had never been." This last part can be better translated, "Yes, they [Edom and its confederates] shall drink and drink and drink until they drink themselves right out of existence." What a dire threat! God essentially tells them that, though they may gloat at first, He will deal with them in His day of vengeance and wipe them from the face of the earth! God does not take these things lightly.
Edom may have drunk on God's holy mountain numerous times. Edomites likely drank in feasting and gloating over Israel when Babylon and later Rome captured and destroyed Jerusalem. Perhaps they thought that the land of Canaan would finally be their inheritance. It could also be descriptive of the present status of the Temple Mount, currently held by the Palestinians, who have strict rules against the Jews' use of the Temple area. In effect, they gloat over their ability to forbid Jews from entering and praying there, yet it is truly not theirs to regulate. God's retaliation will be harsh.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Five): Obadiah and God's Judgment
Juxtaposed against "the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men" is another group: "every slave and every free man" (Revelation 6:15). Who are they? What role do they play in the caves?
To understand, we first need to deal with those repeated words, every: "every slave and every free man." Does John mean that every slave and every free person in the world is addressing "mountains and rocks," asking that they fall on him? Does every free individual and every slave know about the Day of the Lord and about the Lamb at this point? That would be a lot of people.
Revelation 9 clearly indicates that the cave-dwellers represent only a segment—perhaps a small segment—of humanity. Many other people have refused to foreswear idolatry, not yet understanding what the cavemen know about God and His imminent anger:
But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)
So, the occurrences of "every" in Revelation 6:15 do not refer to every slave and every free person in the world. Rather, the phrase "every slave and every free man" is a merism, a rhetorical device wherein a single entity or action is described by opposites, as in "looked high and low" or "on-and-off enthusiasm." "Every slave and every free man" refers to a small subset of people, to a single class of person, one who is both free and bond.
The merism may refer to God's people—who are free and slave concurrently. Christ promises that, if we remain in His Word, we are free: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Similarly, the apostle Paul writes:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2; compare Galatians 5:1)
Yet, the same apostle calls us slaves, bought by God:
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
Paul also tells the Roman church: "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life" (Romans 6:22). Peter provides yet further witness to our being God's slaves: "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God" (I Peter 2:15-16).
In some ways, God's people are free, and in others, slaves.
We could look at this merism a bit differently. "Every slave and every free man" could refer to true Christians, those who know the truth and are therefore free (John 8:32) in God's sight, but who have become enslaved by man through end-time religious persecution. Slaves are expropriated and disenfranchised individuals, having lost personal and property rights. The Jews, taken in the Nazi pogroms, were slaves, told by their masters, "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes free").
Currently, chattel slavery is not a legal institution in Western civilization. However, under increased Islamic influence, it could become legalized and widespread as the result of religious persecution. So it might happen that God protects His people in caves, arranging to have them taken there as slaves in service to others.
God quotes two statements of these sixth-seal cavemen. The first is a command to mountains and rocks. The second is a question. What do their words tell us? What does their silence tell us?
The first sentence is a somewhat illogical command for the "mountains and rocks" to fall on them.
» In making this statement, the cavemen demonstrate at least some correct understanding of the Source of their difficulties. They recognize two Beings as the cause: "Him who sits on the throne" and "the Lamb." This is remarkable in itself, since, to this point, they have seen neither Being.
» The cavemen call one of these two Beings "the Lamb." Admittedly, they do not equate the Lamb with Christ, but the inference is clear that they understand the Lamb to be Christ, the Word of God. Incidentally, John makes 26 references to Christ as the Lamb in the book of Revelation.
» Further, the cavemen understand that these two powerful Beings are angry. In assigning a cause to their difficulties, they utterly shun the voice of the secularist or the atheist. They do not, for example, blame nature on their troubles. They do not assert, "It's just a cycle. Nature will clean up the air and water, and everything will be okay soon." Rather, they squarely identify the cause of their present problems to be the wrath of the Father and Christ.
» Even more interesting is their silence concerning the Holy Spirit. In their dire straits, where their lifestyles have so dramatically changed and their lives are in clear-and-present danger, they make no reference to the Holy Spirit as a separate Person of the Godhead. This suggests that they have abandoned Trinitarian doctrine—remarkable considering the cornerstone status nominal Christianity has historically accorded to it. We are left to speculate why they make no reference to the Trinity at this time.
Their second sentence is a question rather than a statement or command. In stating that "the great day of His wrath has come," they recognize that their situation is special; theirs are extraordinary times. They rightly realize that they can no more defer the effects of God's ire than they can blame those effects on nature. Their reference to "the great day of His wrath" indicates an at least superficial realization that they are facing the Day of the Lord. In asking, "Who can stand?" they recognize that they are powerless to defend themselves against the wrath of these two God-Beings.
In short, the window of these people's minds opens up to a substantially different landscape than what currently exists in our world. Consider how many individuals whom we would today classify as "the kings of the earth, the great men" would refer to Christ as "the Lamb"? How many "rich men, the commanders, the mighty men" know about the prophesied Day of the Lord?
Comparatively few. Perhaps some in America's Bible Belt might use this terminology, but most individuals in the wider society, the secularized, cosmopolitan mess we call the Western World, would find these concepts alien to their thinking. Moreover, most of those who are familiar with the concepts of Christ as the Lamb or the Day of the Lord also fervently believe in the Trinity—something our latter-day cavemen do not allude to at all.
What is happening here? God has actually begun to transform the religious landscape of these cave-dwellers as surely as He has commenced to terraform the planet's physical landscape. These people have listened to the Two Witnesses' preaching, beginning at the time of the fifth seal. God's Word does not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11); these erstwhile movers and shakers have heeded, to an extent. As a result, they have a more complete—though far from perfect—understanding of God and His purposes. And they run for the hills!
We need to dig deeper into the minds of these end-time spelunkers. What thinking underlies their words?
A shaking fist is absent; these individuals do not express anger or outright rebellion against God. Conversely, they make no confession of personal guilt; they express no repentance. While they recognize the existence of the Father and Son, they do not understand that God is a Family into which they can be born. They do not know—or believe—the gospel. They do not realize that they can develop a personal relationship with God and grow to become like Him. In other words, the cavemen's words are not those of converted individuals at all.
The underlying thinking behind their comments is desperate self-preservation.
They want personal safety. Understanding more than many do about God, convinced that the Father and the Lamb are stirred to anger, their knowledge is still so limited that they can only irrationally command "mountains and rocks" to fall on them. Pathetically, in the end, they can only ask a question that exhibits the depths of their despair. Who is able to survive during the Day of the Lord? They have no answer.
Isaiah 2 provides us a bit more insight. In verse 9, the prophet, speaking of idolaters, addresses the issue of their repentance. These people, he says, "will be brought low and everyone humbled—do not forgive them" (Isaiah 2:9, New International Version). God has humbled them through mind-numbing terror; they hide in caves from God and His Son and talk to rocks. Yet, in all this, they have not yet expressed godly sorrow, not yet repented. So God has not yet forgiven them. The prophet Isaiah continues:
Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up—and it shall be brought low. . . . (Isaiah 2:10-12)
Notice that the cave-dwellers are those who have been humbled. In verse 11, Isaiah states the timeframe: They are humbled in a time when "the LORD alone shall be exalted. . . ." So, this passage in Isaiah 2 is dealing with the general period that we call the Day of the Lord.
Interestingly, in verses 20-21, we see that they have eschewed idolatry:
In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made, each for himself to worship, to the moles and bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily.
If the people who hurl their idols "to the moles and bats" as they enter the "clefts of the rocks" are the same ones who ask "mountains and rocks" to fall on them in Revelation 6:16, these folk may well have started out on a road to repentance. They are not there yet, for they lack the proper understanding and motivations. Though God has not yet granted them repentance (II Timothy 2:25), He is working among them, perhaps through the work of the Two Witnesses. He has increased their knowledge about Him, brought them to an understanding that idolatry is wrong, and led them to subterranean "places of safety."
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